An Elegant Bicycle

15 Jun

I haven’t been on a bike for darn near four years, at least. I’d probably not pedaled for five years prior to that. And now, I have a child who I can’t imagine trusting me to cruise her around suburbia, even with a helmet; so I don’t know how long it’ll be before my hindquarters make their way to a banana seat. However, if I had the dashing bicycle pictured below, I might be compelled get a sitter and brave a few slimy gutters in the name of letting the breeze blow through my tresses and making believe I’m in the Smiths’ “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” video.

1970s Lady’s Sports Raleigh 3-Speed • Photo © LovelyBicycle.blogspot.com

Handsome, isn’t it?

(I’m not certain as to whether Morrissey and gang are riding Raleighs. I’m in the process of finding out.)

How painfully charming is the Raleigh Green paired with, say, brown leather handle grips and a Brooks Saddles brown leather seat? It’d make a girl want to cycle from morning ’til eventide. A girl without a child, but hey . . .  here’s to dreaming. (I love my child—really. I love to dream, too.) Best conserve sitter funds—and best get over my fear of slipping to my near-demise in an aforementioned sludge-covered gutter, which I did when I was about ten, and clearly haven’t yet emotionally recovered.

Oh, and . . . I’ve recently purchased these Oxfords, which I think would complement the bicycle I’ll probably never get in quite a lovely way.

Please note that Urban Outfitters made an error on their site. The shoe is actually white on the toe and sides and tan in the middle and on the trim.

Fictitious agenda upon completing Mission: Secure an Elegant Bicycle—ride to coffee and leave with it in a slender silver thermos—and perhaps order a jelly-filled doughnut to celebrate freedom on two wheels; take a jaunt to the park to read some Colette on a soft patch of grass, preferably whilst being greeted by a group of congenial butterflies; feed some ducks and smile at babies and pleasant-looking passersby; head home for sundowners on the back deck, fairy lights aglow.

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When Models Have Pipes

14 Jun

I’m fairly certain my girl crush on Karen Elson—or Mrs. Jack White (although I prefer Karen Elson)—began in the mid-nineties, when her flame red hair sent her catapulting into modeling stardom via the edgy girls circuit. Her skin, perfectly porcelin—the stuff of pre-religion-filled Anne Rice novels; her mouth painted red, red, red to have it out with her hair; her eyes, piercing; and her eyebrows, not present all of the time. She was a quirky, yet undeniable beauty with a certain something; and all these years later, the world finds out that the aforementioned certain something was real talent. (Let’s not get into whether modeling requires talent. I’m sure it does, but I’m talking about an even more spectacular talent.) The girl can sing.

Karen Elson strumming beside Jackson (son of Patti) Smith

I was thrilled to see Karen and Jack White in an editorial together for the first time in the most recent Vogue. There was mention of her recording something, a fact which sort of filtered through my eyes and out my ears as I dwelled on the perfection that is Karen Elson and Jack White’s groovy, dark-country elegance. It’s so subtle and flowing—fetchingly gloomy somehow. It’s as if the world is illuminated by candlelight wherever they go. But that’s probably just me getting lost in Annie Leibovitz’s photos. (Go, Grace Coddington for such exquisite art direction!)

Anyhow, I’d read that article a couple weeks ago, and a few days ago, my dearest sent me a video of Karen singing live at Third Man Records, run by Mr. White himself. Not only did she look hauntingly gorgeous, she sounded surprisingly spectacular—and I only say surprising because models who’ve gone down in history as great vocalists are far and few between, yes? But her vocal stylings are so pure and pleasing. I hear traces of Stevie and Sandy Denny—maybe Nancy and Ann Wilson at times; but, really, I hear her, and I love what I hear. And it must be said that female-fronted acts constitute a sliver in my music collection. No good reason for it—it just is what it is. Music with twangy guitars are virtually non-existent in my iTunes, but, as my husband mentioned, the steel guitar is used interestingly on this record—it isn’t overtly alt-country. It’s dark country, as I say—fit for a stroll through an overgrown cemetery whilst twirling a frilly white parasol—but there’s other stuff, too, so check it out.

Also check out The Citizens Band stuff if you’ve any interest in cabaret.

Thank heavens for new music. It was all getting rather bland. Consider me moved.

Sound of the Crowd

10 Jun

If, in 1981, I were 19 and not 6, NewRo/Blitz Kids so would’ve been my bag. God knows I would’ve been more than eager to pair the silver-blue eyeshadow with deep mauve blush and glossy red lips. Why, I was partial to that in the mid-nineties, save for the cheek stripes. And I’ve always managed to get a bit of fringe in my eyes—and I love frilly black numbers. And it was Nick Rhodes’ photo I hung up in my room at about age 8. “He’s wearing makeup!” my mom said, mouth agape. “I think it’s pretty!” retorted the little girl with the shiny teddy bear on her sweatshirt.

My husband, who actually lived through the movement as a teen, although he was a Mod, asked me last night when I was making him listen to Dare! in what way the music moved me. Born and bred on guitar-driven music, he has difficulty understanding how anything involving a synthesizer could possibly work its way into one’s soul. And I suppose I can see his point. I responded by saying that perhaps Human League, specifically, doesn’t move me emotionally in the way that other synth-based bands—say Depeche Mode—did when I was younger. I mean “Little 15”? C’mon! Tears!

Human League (as well as various other bands of the genre) does send me a bit into fantasist mode. I imagine myself all painted to perfection, wearing a little pillbox hat with a tiny veil, some sort of corset dress and fishnets—and dancing in front of a slip of a young man with asymmetrical hair wearing a pirate shirt and some impossibly narrow trousers tucked into high boots. And I’d twirl the night away, stopping only to wing my eyeliner just a bit more or re-line my pout. It’s all very superficial, I know; but that was the scene, wasn’t it? The last gasp for real glam after punk had made its way into the world.

I recently bothered to read the captions in the great pictorial *Duran Duran Unseen, and I grew more convinced that I would’ve had tons of fun and fit right in with that heavily eyelined set. I wasn’t as drawn to, nor was I willing to immerse myself in similar scenes that were still hanging on throughout the nineties. Goth would’ve been the closest, but they weren’t visually appealing enough. Although I liked some goth music and definitely had my share of goth friends, it always bothered me that it was nearly impossible to find the actual person hidden beneath all that garb and swirly black makeup. With the NewRo thing, you could go way out (Boy George), or, as a girl, especially, you could actually look pretty, but in a Nagel painting kind of way. Unfortunately for me, the most extreme look I embraced in the nineties was grunge: some thermal leggings under my holey jean shorts with my boyfriend’s flannel over a t-shirt. Oh, and some Docs, of course. Just lovely.

Back to explaining why the synth music of that period moves me. I liken it to music for a dark party, so to speak. It’s punk meets disco, and it’s ridiculously fun to dance to without being the stuff of frat parties (although I seem to recall hearing “Don’t You Want Me” following Dave Matthews Band at more than one frat party in college). And who doesn’t like a dark party where everyone’s dressed up and made up to the nines?

For more Blitz Kids/’80s fare, this is the place you really want to go.

*Seriously the best Duran photos I’ve ever seen.

(I have to confess that this entry is lifted from of one of my other blogs. So if you happened to have caught that one [doubt it!], don’t worry—I’m plagiarizing myself.)

Vegetarian Lasagna

8 Jun

It isn’t Meat-Free Monday, but don’t let that stop you from going veg on your lasagna. Do it tonight, even. The meat-eaters won’t scoff, unless, of course, they don’t do vegetables. Then, perhaps, move along to cheese-only recipes. Or throw ’em a couple bones! (I say this with love—I haven’t completely gone vegetarian yet.)

Photo © EPC/Recipezaar.com

I’m a cheese fanatic, but I’ve never swooned over lasagna, because there’s simply too much of the stuff. I chow down like a champ for about three bites and then—bleck—regret. The hodgepodge of greens and mushrooms balances out the mixture of cheeses this recipe calls for. There isn’t too much of anything. Whoever concocted this blend got it just right.

A couple notes, though. Do read the user comments about the recipe; they help out considerably. My husband and I weren’t too keen on the shredded carrot idea, nor were others; so we opted out, and loved it all the same. Someone mentioned that sprinkling Parmesan between every layer of noodle was excessive and contributed to a strange, overly granular texture; so we skipped that, too, and the final product still tasted delectable.

Also, be sure to slice that zucchini as thinly as possible. You don’t want obnoxiously sized chunks of anything throwing off the palette. And if you forget the ricotta at the store one time, don’t despair. We’ve had to make do with all mozzarella, and it was only slightly less delightful.

Charles Phoenix

7 Jun

Charles Phoenix is an American treasure in that he treasures Americana—the good, the kitschy, and the downright absurd. I haven’t read every last bit of his work, but it ranges from enjoyably easy-to-read historical non-fiction (Southern California in the ’50s: Fun, Sun and Fantasy [2001] is a fine example) to blogs about an old photo of a leopard print-wearing lady whooping it up with two monkeys (and no, not like that).

See? No monkey business here. Photo © CharlesPhoenix.com

What I really feel as though I’ve missed out on are his live shows. I mean, who better to take the masses back to the yesteryear of Disneyland than Mr. Phoenix? He’s doing just that this summer.

The Lost Mouseketeer

I know he probably doesn’t need plugs at this point in his career. He was on Martha Stewart, after all. But the care he takes in telling stories about found photographs and slides isn’t only hilarious—it’s helping keep the Wonder Years alive in this era in which everything is digitized, given a half-second’s attention, and deleted with a swift flick of the wrist. Sure, he’s usually making fun of the people in the photos, most of whom he never knew, but he’s giving them voices, showing  a glimpse of the life the way they lived it, and paying homage to simpler, less harried times.

Do check him out!

An Aesthetic Feast

6 Jun

If I can remember right, I was searching for old photos of Anna Karina, the most darling of darlings, when I happened upon a young Canadian girl’s Flickr account. Obviously an ardent Anna Karina fan, she also resembles her, as evidenced by her many photos in which she exhibits her sartorial prowess and devotion to the days of yore. (I hope it isn’t too creepy that I admitted to scanning some of her photos. EDIT: Oh my word, I just realized I wrote “scanning.” I didn’t mean scanning; I meant skimming through, perusing . . . I’m not scary, honestly!)

Somehow, I stumbled upon her again recently, via the blog circuit, and was delighted to find that she’s continuing to show the world her wonderfully demure ensembles—and has added video blogging to her online offerings. Here’s a pretty great 1960s Mod eye makeup tutorial. I like that she manages to make a look that could be undeniably costume-y modern.

Apparently she has a decent following, given that she answers reader questions posted to her Formspring account. Her take on courteous blogging and writing sincerely is right on, in my opinion. It’s heartening to see early twentysomethings interested in foreign film and decades past and other quality topics. Actually, I know of plenty twentysomethings of the same ilk; it’s the teens I worry about. And with that, I vow to not sound so flippin’ old for the rest of the day!

Spain . . . on the Road Again

5 Jun

I assure you that I won’t continually choose really very things that are two years old, but sometimes older is good. Just ask the Sex and the City gals about their success—two years ago. (Just kidding. I saw Sex and the City 2, and I thought it was a hoot. No one wants to talk about how a good portion of American women likely have a problem with their favorite ladies whooping it up in the Middle East. Or maybe they have, but I haven’t read it. Anyway, xenophobia, anyone?)

People don’t seem to take issue with their leading ladies going off to Europe for a whirlwind tour of the best eats and spirits a country has to offer, however. Spain . . . on the Road Again, the 2008 television series that aired on public television, finds the charming Gwyneth Paltrow, Spanish actor Claudia Bassols, renowned Chef Mario Batali, and food writer/cookbook author extraordinaire Mark Bittman traveling the roads of Spain in swanky Mercedes, engaging in witty repartee, and getting sloshed in each of the 13 episodes of this series.

When I asked a good friend—a foodie of sorts—if she’d seen any of the episodes, she replied that no, she hadn’t, and that she’d heard that everyone on the show came off as “insufferable.” “EH?” I said. I, for one, had no idea that Gwyneth Paltrow had such a wonderful disposition prior to watching Spain  . . .  on the Road Again. She is seriously hilarious—a guy’s girl, really. She’s down to earth, unpretentious, and seems to enjoy cutting loose when the opportunity strikes. And she’s so naturally stunning. I’m taken aback how she can look so regal without a trace of makeup. (I do realize I’m blathering on, but I never thought one way or the other about Ms. P before watching the show, and I certainly knew a fair share of folks who for somewhat unjustifiable reasons loathed her; so it was very nice to see her in this new light. The light of España!)

Mario Batali’s orange Crocs and fondness for dressing down for all occasions are a bit of a downer, but he has his comedic moments, as well—and he’ll randomly throw out proof that he’s pretty hip. I believe it was in an episode where he and “Gwynnie” are visiting a gallery, where he drops a Gang of Four reference. (If you aren’t into English post-punk, you don’t really care.) Mark Bittman is exactly how you’d imagine him, if you’re familiar with his New York Times column or blog: dry, a little crotchety, but lovable. “Bassols,” as she’s often referred to on the show, is glamorous and intelligent. She’s the least entertaining of the lot, but she’s most fluent in Spanish and serves as the tour guide on the show.

If you don’t think you’d grow bored watching people eat and drink, and discuss in both English and Spanish what they feel about what they’re eating and imbibing, this show is for you. The locally grown food, its preparation, and the enjoyment it brings are so impressive that you can’t really help but at least attempt to eat better after watching a few shows. Vegetables never looked so delectable—I promise you.

PS: Check for air dates on the Spain . . .  on the Road Again web site (above). Alternatively, the series is available on good old Netflix.